May 13th, 2010
09:42 AM ET

Dear Mr. President #479 "How many Americans can America hold?"

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/13/art.american.flag.jpg caption="At what point…if any…should we as a nation say that we don’t want or can’t afford to just keep getting larger?"]
Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: New polls show public concern is growing about our immigration policy. Just like my string of letters to the White House is growing day by day.

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve been watching the whole growing debate over the immigration issue, and listening to your AG threatening to sue Arizona, and on and on and on. And a basic question has occurred to me: No matter where you stand on the issue, no matter how you feel about the struggles of other people in other places who might want to come here, what number of Americans do you think is the right number?

At what point…if any…should we as a nation say that we don’t want or can’t afford to just keep getting larger? And trust me, yes, I understand this is a tough question loaded with political dynamite.

But I ask this because even if we had no immigration whatsoever, I’m pretty sure we’re producing enough babies each year to assure our survival as a nation far into the future. Whenever we accept a new family into our fold from someplace afar, we are also accepting their descendents. In terms of sheer math, you can see how that starts eating up the chairs at the local cinema on Saturday night. And making our cities more sprawling. And our roads more crowded. And our pollution greater. And our consumption of resources more intense. And I don’t even want to talk about how hard it could be to get your call through in one of those radio contests if this continues.

I’m not trying to be xenophobic or wreck on the dreams of those who might hope for a better future here. I recognize that my family came as immigrants many years ago and we benefited from America’s immigration laws at the time. But I also recognize that we once offered free land to homesteaders. And times change.

So I wonder how many new arrivals any nation can afford to admit before it starts bending under the weight. I have no doubt that many of these folks bring ambition, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to building a better America. (Just as I am sure that some don’t. But frankly that’s true of a lot of us who are already here.) Still, the question remains: How much is too much?

My father saw the population of this country more than double in his lifetime. I don’t know what to think about the idea that by the time our daughters are our age, another hundred million or more people could be living in this country. I honestly don’t know what that might mean. Maybe it would be great. But I suspect it could offer challenges beyond anything we might imagine.

Let me know your thoughts. I’m around and, as always, my phone is close at hand.



soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Don

    Population growth and migration are on the scale of world order.
    As one of the leader's in this global community. Just closing our
    borders is not going to resolve this issue. But, how we handle our immigration problem can set the tone and our ability in providing leadership and direction with this issue.

    May 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  2. Don

    China has to deal with a population more than double our own. Obviously they are not in dire straits because of it. I think the
    question is how much change in our environment and lifestyles
    are we willing to live with.

    May 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  3. Roger

    I have no objection to legal immigration, we control it and monitor the type of person were allowing in (professional; worker; etc.) and can refuse entry to those less desirable. Where as with illegal immigration, we have no ideal of what is coming across the border and we need to stop it.

    May 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  4. April

    Agree with Anthony. We are infinite beings living in a finite world. Speaks for itself...

    May 13, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  5. Ratna, Queens, NY

    Arizona serves as a catalyst in this Immigration Reform Issue!

    May 13, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  6. anthony toscano

    We are already there were in a drift of becoming a third world nation. There is no answer on how to change it as it becomes a threat to our nation. A sea of people asking whats in it for me will never survive for very long, and we are now those people.

    May 13, 2010 at 10:23 am |